Roma boss Di Francesco takes full credit for UCL defeat of Barcelona
Roma boss Eusebio Di Francesco did not shy away from taking credit for his team's shock 3-0 Champions League quarterfinal victory against Barcelona that eliminated the La Liga leaders from the competition by a final aggregate score of 4-4.
Edin Dzeko opened the scoring for the hosts and Daniele De Rossi added their second from the penalty spot before Kostas Manolas sent the Stadio Olimpico into hysterics with a late third to seal passage to the semifinals.
And following the match, Di Francesco said it was his tactical switch to a back three that set his team on their way to the historic win.
"I take the blame for defeats and some ungrateful words on social media, so I may as well take the credit for a win," he told Mediaset Premium.
"The truth is that I made this choice to create more width, allow more counter-attacks and bring speed, but what really changed was the philosophy of the side and we have to continue like this now.
"Although we have had very good performances in Serie A, we are only now reaping the rewards -- the just rewards -- for the hard work we have done."
The last-four Champions League appearance for Roma is the first in club history after becoming just the third side ever in the competition to overturn a three-goal deficit from the first leg.
Di Francesco believes there is still more history to be written.
"Of course we should believe we can reach the final -- why wouldn't we believe?" he said. "We have come this far and nobody expected us to do it, so we should push on and aim for something more, raising the bar every time.
"I don't want a side that rests on its laurels or thinks it doesn't matter how the game goes. I won't stand for that. We have to target more and realise we can always do better."
Goal scorer Dzeko, who had been a January target of several clubs including Chelsea, said he was surprised to see Barcelona struggle so mightily, but added that it was Roma's ability to take the game to Ernesto Valverde's team that resulted in their lacklustre display.
Dzeko said: "This was the best, but even better may well be yet to come. It proved we can play against anyone, as Barcelona are such a strong side. We put three goals past them and could've had more.
"I have never seen Barcelona struggle so much. We pressed them constantly from the first minute."
UNBELIEVABLE! Roma president Pallotta throwing himself in the fountain surrounded by fans! pic.twitter.com/tqSnehrMbp— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) April 10, 2018
And Roma president James Pallotta, who flew in from Boston just to watch the second leg, said he was "stunned" to witness his side's remarkable rally.
"I was just stunned," he told UEFA.com at the final whistle. "I wanted to look around, more than it being a 'self' thing. I was looking at the stands; looking at the fans behind us, across the whole stadium.
"The genuine happiness and excitement of Roma fans going like 'sometimes we have bad luck, but look at what we just did' -- that was the whole best part about it. That was it. And then, I think it is just the defining moment for the players that they realise how good they are.
"It's been kind of frustrating after the Genoa game that we have not been playing so consistently as I know the team can do, and when you watch what we do against Barcelona, you go: 'well you certainly have it in you.' That was the best part. I think they've come together for sure. The locker room was fun, watching it."
Pallotta also paid tribute to Di Francesco for masterminding the victory with a tactical masterclass, and Roma's players for executing the game plan to perfection.
"This morning I was with [sporting director] Monchi and he told us what [Di Francesco] was going to do and it was a big change from the way the way we were structured before, and it worked," Pallotta said. "It clearly worked and Di Francesco should get all the credit. Well, he should get at least the credit for planning it and the players should get the credit for executing it.
"Coming back from 4-1 down to Barcelona is amazing just by itself, but watching the way the team played for 90 minutes -- this wasn't a game where we luckily won, it just felt like the whole time we sort of had them back on their heels.
"At the end of the day when you look at the stats and it says Barcelona 57 percent and us 43 percent, you go 'what?', well the reason why is because we had them pressed back on their heels all the time, so the team for 90 minutes played as well as I've seen them play in five years."
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